-- A blog maintained by a pessimistic over-confident High-School kid.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Batch Reading - Active Improvement

I do not know why, but around March to June of every year, I always get a drive for reading. Three years ago, I got into the habit with the Mortal Instruments series. Two years ago, Ayn Rand's fiction book the Fountainhead got me into her philosophy books. A year ago, Seth Godin's This is Marketing inspired me to go through tens of self-help books. And ultimately, this year, my desire to become better equipped for a "mature" life drove me to go through blog posts, Ted talks, manifestos, programming guidelines, and award-winning fictions. It seems like each of my years is a repeating existential crisis of wanting to achieve more, and somehow, I am gaining understanding each time I go through this process. While most of my other blogs are repeating thoughts in my head that grew irresistible to write about, this one is a one of mystery. I see a pattern of personal growth, and I can't figure the cause of it.

Similar to my chopped up periods of reading, most of my skills, including basketball, coding, gaming, drawing, and almost everything else are improved from chopped up pieces of training. I would do things pertaining to one skill for a month or so, and then drop it for the following month. And every time I return to my skill, I get extensively better at it. In the past, I understand it as an unconscious yet consistent development within my brain, but looking at it now, it seems like the improvement comes from how I am free to revisit the topic with a new perspective each time. I see people stuck in certain phases in life all the time, insisting that they had mastered their speciality when, in reality, they rank low in the mass. It happened to me too, even when I am openly listening to constructive criticism about my coding skills, I insisted that I am a borderline expert at coding. One summer, my Dad openly said that I still got much too learn, and while I completely agree with the statement, I think I am closer to being a professional than I actually am. I was stuck in a trap of comparing myself to sub-par programmers that I know of from the internet. To my credit, there are a lot of programmers at my level that, with a little bit of luck, are making a perfectly fine living. But what I had mastered was just the tip of the iceberg, and I hadn't take into account all the researchers, specialities and consultants that do not have a youtube channel. My personal experience with how each question of mine is just a 6-minute tutorial away gave me confidence that I can code anything. And while I might be able to code a lot of stuff, the quality lacks in a way that I am not optimizing everything. The solution to the problem is a half-a-year break from coding, and I came back with an understanding of the importance to optimize performance and cleanliness in code. While there are a lot more categories that I am lacking at in coding, in my limited field of vision now, optimization is what I see.

A TED talk that I watched recently very effectively put this phenomenon of the plateauing of skills into words. It outlined that there are two different types of work modes: one being "the performance zone", and another one being "the learning zone". It takes us an effort, whether conscious or not, of reaching over our limits to get better at a skill. This act of reaching is where we learn, and where risks are involved. The problem with modern life is that we are constantly trapped in doing performance task, and being stuck at a skill level, a phase. And tying this back to my chopped up pieces of learning, it relates to that each time I get back to a skill, I am doing something foreign. But this became foreign skill had already its existent in my memory, making my reach of a better attempt in the past. By freeing myself from remembering the exact details of a certain skill, I had to reassemble it all together again, making it an act within the learning zone. According to the talk, the interval nature of my improvement does not have to be spread out. The presenter theorizes that we can go into a learning zone just by actively trying. While I cannot picture myself improving at basketball by analysing my hand gesture as it is more involved with intuition. But at least for things of a more definite nature such as coding, I could start improving without the half-a-year-long breaks.

Adapting to this idea, I had lately started to document my loose thoughts. As I said at the beginning of the blog, my blogs are places where my more sounding thoughts get recorded, but small sparks of inspiration mostly get lost. To actively try to improve my thought process, I added a section called "Thought Bubble" into my digital notebook to jot down incomplete thoughts. While some of the thoughts are thousands of words long and would over an effort of a blog post, it gives me a place to harshly write down speeding thoughts. I just had to thank how my daily schedule now is flexible enough to allow for the disappearance of chucks of hours that service the recording of these thoughts.

Thinking more each day make time flies by. And while I am feeling smarter, I feel more and more cliche, even when writing this exact sentence. I need to stress to myself the importance to maintain my normal life of practical work, and not step into a path of pure philosophy. While I would welcome a cringy thought experiment to take place, it is scary to not produce work. I had, again and again, got defeated by the resistance from producing work. I have to remind myself that an hour-long thinking session cannot be count as a productive action.

I have officially run out of artwork to display.
I am ashamed of myself.
But no worries, I will get back to it very soon.

Each of the titles is a cliche in itself 

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